Tension May 21, 2014

Today’s guest post comes from Don Sullivan, one of an excellent class of students from Bethel Seminary who recently studied the intersection between theology and science.

A significant part of the last nine weeks of my academic life has been about the intersection of science, (primarily evolution) and theology. Up to this point, and I assume for the remainder of my academic career, I have had very little education in science in general and none in biology. To this day I have never dissected anything, or even seen it done. (How this happened is a long story, but its not because I am squeamish.) So as a pastor for 13+ years the question of evolution has always been about theology and not science. One result of this educational upbringing is that I haven’t dug into the science half of this conversation and couldn’t have really understood it if I had. Another result is that for whatever the reason I haven’t had much of an emotional reaction in this discussion, and at times I have struggled understand why conservative evangelical Christians have gotten so riled up over this, but I have learned that simply telling someone they are overreacting rarely has the desired effect!

But it has become increasingly apparent that this issue has become not just more contentious, one has only to YouTube this subject to find both humorous and disturbing portrayals of this, but divisive. Young people are leaving the church and presumably their faith over this. It is my opinion that the primary blame for this lies at the feet of the church. It is the conservative Evangelical church that is forcing her people to make a choice between science and Christianity, or at least our version of it. I had a conversation with a high school student who was frustrated that the adults in his life would not just explain evolution. All he was told was that it was bad. The church can and must do better. But how?

We need to be open to discussions about this topic. In the last nine weeks I have heard from multiple sources that the data is what it is and not a matter of interpretation. I find it ironic that as a theologian with little science background, accepting the data of science is, or at least feels, like more of a faith move than interpreting the bible. I am forced to either accept or reject the scientific data as is.

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